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Passed OCAJP7! Sharing my experiences

 
Chris Barrett
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Hi all,

I passed the OCA with 86% today, having dedicated a month and a half to the exam. I’ve been studying Java part-time for the last year, and have taken classes in core Java, Swing, JDBC and Servlets. Of course, Swing, JDBC and Servlets have nothing to do with the exam, but it’s a form of practice with Java so I mention them. Unfortunately, I was really rusty in Java, as my last term was only C++. I hadn’t written any Java in four months when I started prepping. I also had a self-imposed deadline, as this Monday coming up I’m starting a course in JSP/JSF, an advanced C++ course and have a Coursera Python course that I'll be discussing in the forums.

Resources I Used
Daniel Liang’s Introduction to Java Programming, Comprehensive
Mala Gupta’s OCA Java SE 7 Programmer I Certification Guide
Enthuware OCA Prep Course
JavaRanch Forums

You will probably have the same issue I did. Academia teaches you great coding convention formatted structure. The exam is anything but that. The exam will expect you to have an understanding of many scenarios that you just don’t see in academia. For example, every textbook and instructor has told me the proper entry method is public static void main(String[] args). I had no idea there is several different ways to write that method that will all be treated as the entry point:

static public void main(String[] args)
public static void main(String args[])
static public void main(String args[])
public static void main(String... args)
static public void main(String... args)

(plus all of those again with the final keyword)

When an instructor says, “This is how you do it.” why would I randomly try different ways? The exam will expect you to know those ways, plus other things you probably never saw in an university Java course (like initializer blocks, which I’m guessing my Java instructors would say are a “C” thing), or static imports.

My Approach
  • I started with Mala’s book, and when I realized just how rusty I was, I dedicated 4 or 5 hours a day to working through the first 11 chapters of Daniel Liang’s book. That took about two weeks. I skipped his questions on geometry if they didn’t involve overriding and inheritance.
  • I stopped using Eclipse. To paraphrase the Bartenders and Sheriffs, IDEs make you lazy. I started writing Java with a text editor and manually compiling, running via the command line. I quickly realized how much I had been using the IDE to spot silly mistakes that won’t be forgiven when missed on the exam.
  • After my Java refresher, I read through Mala’s book, trying everything I had just made assumptions about in the past. I then re-read the book again. That was about a month, 4 or 5 hours a day.
  • Of course, reading isn’t retained as well as doing, so I bought the Enthuware OCA Prep Course. That was key, as that made me fast and helped me become efficient at the exam format. It also helped me get use to understanding (quickly) the non-textbook style of the coding I could expect on the exam. I should have done that sooner, but only bought it on Monday. I dedicated three hours each morning to review and then another two hour test block in the evening.
  • Finally, I spent hours in the forum reviewing the Beginning Java forums. There is a lot of non-textbook structured code there to try and understand, plus the opportunity to really prove I understood complex topics by rewording in my own language and posting answers to questions in the forums. When I got it wrong, Sheriffs quickly pointed out the problems within my responses. I owe folks like Winston, Campbell, Roel, Jeanne, and Henry a lot.

  • My Practice Test Scores
    Mala’s Chapter Exams: 68%
    Mala’s Final Exam: 77%
    Enthuware Starter Test: 72%
    Test 1: 63%
    Test 2: 72%
    Test 3: 76%
    Test 4: 64% (no idea what the heck I was doing that day…)
    Last Day Test: 76%
    (I doubled up on a few days, writing one in the morning and another in the evening).

    Actual Exam: 86%

    So, there you go. You can get ‘er done in an accelerated format if you try, just be prepared to work hard. I’m sure I could have added a few percentage points to the Actual Exam with more prep work, but you gotta play with the cards dealt to you.

    Cheers!
    Chris
     
    Roel De Nijs
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    Congratulations, champion! Great score

    Thanks for sharing your journey in such a detailed post. Many ranchers will definitely benefit from your experiences & suggestions. Have a cow!

    Chris R Barrett wrote:I stopped using Eclipse. To paraphrase the Bartenders and Sheriffs, IDEs make you lazy. I started writing Java with a text editor and manually compiling, running via the command line. I quickly realized how much I had been using the IDE to spot silly mistakes that won’t be forgiven when missed on the exam.

    When you are learning Java, it's a very wise thing not to use an IDE. You'll learn more quickly using text editor and javac/java. Brings back memories to those good old days on college when learning Java. My computer was so outdated I couldn't run any of the available IDEs at that time , so had to use Notepad & javac/java. In the end that appeared not a bad thing at all (acing the Java exam with flying colors)

    Chris R Barrett wrote:I owe folks like Winston, Campbell, Roel, Jeanne, and Henry a lot.

    Thanks for these nice words. Always nice to get some appreciation!
     
    Jeanne Boyarsky
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    Thanks for sharing. I like when people post their mock scores and exam scores. It helps to see the correlation so folks can see where they stand.
     
    Paul Anilprem
    Enthuware Software Support
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    Congratulations, Chris! Great job!!
     
    Roel De Nijs
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    Jeanne Boyarsky wrote:I like when people post their mock scores and exam scores. It helps to see the correlation so folks can see where they stand.

    True! Certainly if they add some valuable other information too. That's why I added a link to this thread in the sticky thread about OCAJP7 exam, so it's easy to find for other ranchers.
     
    Chris Barrett
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    Thank you all for the feedback - and the cow!

    I noticed I missed information on the actual test center. I have added those details to this thread.

    Regarding my test scores for Enthuware, I think the marks were lower than the real test, because the Enthuware tests gave me exposure to a lot of "I have no idea, I've never thought to try that" scenarios that I might have seen in industry, but never saw in the more sanitized examples in academia. This is a good thing, because similar scenarios were on the real test.
    The Enthuware tests included | and & bitwise operator related questions that were not in Mala's book, plus the System.arraycopy function (bitwise and System.arraycopy didn't appear on my actual test, but I assume that's not true for everyone).

    Frankly, I would rather have hard practice tests than go into the real test with too much confidence.

     
    Jeanne Boyarsky
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    Bitwise operators used to be on the exam and were removed. Now it won't appear for anyone.
     
    Mark Doucette
    Greenhorn
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    Excellent job amigo! Sounds like I had better get studying, apparently it's going to be harder than I had originally thought lol. See you in class on Monday.

    Cheers
     
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